Washington Online Poker Laws

When it comes to Washington online poker, the state stands out in its strictness and its legal focus. Whereas most states focus on regulating or barring online poker and online gambling companies, Washington has gone all-in and targeted the players in the past. Washington is one of very few states that have made online poker a crime. A felony to be exact. Attempts to overturn or appeal these laws have so far been unsuccessful.

Is Online Poker Legal or Illegal in Washington?

Online poker has been illegal in Washington since 2006. State Senator Margarita Prentice sponsored a bill that year to make online poker a felony with punishments including a $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison. Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law and online poker became a Class C Felony in the state of Washington.

One important note to make. While Washington has made it illegal to play online poker they have not gone after online poker players. No one has been charged or arrested with playing online poker in the state (as of May, 2020).

Is Any Gambling Legal in Washington?

Yes. There are more than 100 casinos in the state offering slots, tables games such as Blackjack, and poker. Charitable gambling and social gambling are also legal. Betting on horse racing and sports betting became legal earlier this year (in tribal casinos only), but daily fantasy sports remains illegal in Washington.

Washington has several tribal casinos which are operated by the more than 20 tribes in the state. Most of the tribal casinos are found in the western part of the state, situated near Seattle and Tacoma, but there is another large group of casinos in the eastern part of the state near Spokane.

Most tribal casinos are small operations, referred to as mini casinos that offer a small number of table games, as under legislation they have select hours and are limited to a maximum of 15 tables. There are also several small poker rooms in the state with most of them housing 3-5 tables based in bars or restaurants.

Under Washington State law “social” poker games are allowed and authorized. Under RCW 9.46.0282 it states:

“Social card game as used in this chapter means a card game that constitutes gambling and is authorized by the commission under RCW 9.46.070. Authorized card games may include a house-banked or a player-funded banked card game. No one may participate in the card game or have an interest in the proceeds of the card game who is not a player or a person licensed by the commission to participate in social card games. There shall be two or more participants in the card game who are players or persons licensed by the commission. The card game must be played in accordance with the rules adopted by the commission under RCW 9.46.070, which shall include but not be limited to rules for the collection of fees, limitation of wagers, and management of player funds. The number of tables authorized shall be set by the commission but shall not exceed a total of fifteen separate tables per establishment.”

A full list of gambling laws can be found on the Washington State Legislature website.

Washington Laws Pertinent to Online Poker

Washington is one of a select few states that specifically targets poker players with their online gambling legislation.

In 2006 Washington State Senator Margarita Prentice sponsored the advancement of a bill to make online poker a felony in the state. Under the bill that was tabled, anyone charged with playing online poker would be charged with a felony and penalized with a $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison. Later that year Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law which made playing online poker a Class C felony in the state of Washington.

Within Washington state law the transmission of or receiving of gambling information was classified as a felony. Under RCW 9.46.240 Gambling information, transmitting or receiving it states:

“Whoever knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore, the internet, a telecommunications transmission system, or similar means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information shall be guilty of a class C felony subject to the penalty set forth in RCW 9A.20.021. However, this section shall not apply to such information transmitted or received or equipment installed or maintained relating to activities authorized by this chapter or to any act or acts in furtherance thereof when conducted in compliance with the provisions of this chapter and in accordance with the rules adopted under this chapter.”

Numerous groups, including the Poker Players Alliance have challenged Washington’s online poker laws without success. One example includes a 2008 lawsuit brought against the state by Seattle attorney Lee Rousso.

He received support from the Poker Players Alliance but despite several appeals the case was rejected by the Washington Stat Supreme Court in 2010.

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